Judith Ogden Larsens pie shop had a beginning as humble as gooseberry pie. She spread a quilt on the tailgate of her pickup truck and sold made-from-scratch pies to travelers along Interstate 80 in central Nebraska. Between customers, she played her fiddle.
A hunter bought a blackberry pie from me and later called from Washington, D.C., and asked if I could send him a pie, recalls Larsen, 47. Then another happy pie customer called, then another. That sellout day in November 2002 gave Larsen the nudge she needed to open The Village PieMaker.
I felt in my heart that this would work, Larsen says. While she lacked business know-how, she did know how to roll out a perfect piecrust and pack it with nearly 2 1/2 pounds of fresh raspberries or cherries or apple slices; no canned stuff is the companys motto. She had learned to crimp and primp a piecrustlightly brushing milk and sprinkling sugar on topat age 10 under the guidance of her grandmother Gladys Karre.
At first, Larsen transformed a bedroom of her home into a commercial kitchen. Freezers and mountains of flour and sugar quickly took over. Likewise, pie orders from grocery stores and coffee shops outgrew her 70-pie capacity Ford Escort. Larsen moved The Village PieMaker into a quaint 1920s brick creamery building in Eustis, Neb. (pop. 464), where 15 employees today turn out as many as 1,000 pies a dayevery single one made by hand and plump with fresh or frozen fruit or custards. She delivers the frozen take and bakes by van to 175 commercial outlets across Nebraska and parts of Colorado and Kansas.
Although Larsens days begin at 4 a.m. and rarely leave time for playing the fiddle, shes living the pie-in-the-sky life she imagined.
I am so honored when older women write and tell me that this is a dying art, Larsen says.
Imagine, being thanked for baking a pie.